Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Slogans of the Movement

Introduction to the Restoration Ideal #2

There are three slogans (mottoes) that have defined the Restoration Movement throughout the years, especially in the early years. Marshall Leggett briefly mentions these three slogans on pages 9 and 10. They are: “Where the Scripture speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent”; “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love”; “Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names.”

I want to briefly comment on these slogans. Each one has its strength and weakness, and divorced from the context that they were developed we may even their wisdom.

“Where the Scripture speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent”
To appreciate this slogan we have to remember the context in which the Restoration Movement got its start. One of the things that fueled the Restoration Movement was the reality of a Church that was splintered into denominations and sects, and each had its own creed or confession to determine who a “real” Christian was. I don’t know if we in contemporary America can understand the division that was a reality in that time. These men called for people to return to Scripture, rather than their creeds and confessions. The rule of our faith and our practice must be found in the Bible rather than from tradition or theology.

While I think most Christians appreciate the call to return to Scripture, the weakness is found in developing an arrogance that is akin to what the apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians:
This is what I mean: Each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12; ISV)

When this is your slogan it is easy to develop the arrogance of false of humility of following the Bible “alone”: “I am not a Calvinist; I am just a plain Bible-believing Christian” (as if Calvinist don’t believe the Bible).

If I could redo this slogan a little I would have it say: Scripture is our guide in how we live and what we believe.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love”
This is my favorite of the Restoration Movement slogans. It reminds us that there are many things in which Christians can find unity. It also helps us remember that there needs to be grace in our dealings with each other. We are not going to have the same beliefs about everything, and there needs to be room and freedom to belief differently when it comes to those things that are not clearly stated in the Bible. And of course we are reminded to love each other. Just as the apostle Peter wrote: Above all, continue to love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8; ISV).

The problem we run into with this one is that we can’t agree what are essentials and non-essentials are. It is hard to extend liberty when we believe something is an essential doctrine. That being said there is no answer I can give to that problem except that we have to be patient and loving with people, and when we have a disagreement we have to do our best to explain our position. Love is still the best way to help people to discover the truth.

“Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names”
This is the slogan I would just like to forget. Why? Because we live in a different time and culture. We don’t worship the same way, we don’t celebrate communion the same way, and we don’t have the same problems or concerns.

We need to remember that the Bible is our source of Truth: it forms what we believe and directs what we do. Yet, one the challenges that we face is taking the ancient principles found in Scripture and applying them to our lives. We will never be consistent in doing things the way they did them in the Bible, we will always allow our culture to influence how we do them. What we need to be consistent on is making sure the Biblical principles guide how we do things.

I would redo this slogan to say: The Bible gives us with the principles that form how we live and worship.

2 comments:

Jason Cooper said...

Good stuff Paul. Let me add to your quote from Paul...

This is what I mean: Each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12; ISV)

I like to use this passage and then ask people which group was right. They always respond, those claiming Christ were correct.

Obviously, those claiming Christ alone were technically "right". But Paul, in the next section quickly corrects even those who were claiming Christ.

He said to them, "Is Christ divided?" (NIV). Even those that were technically right were wrong because of the attitude and atmosphere of their claim. They were contributing to division.

This seems common in the Christian Church. We strive to be "technically correct" often at the cost of the unity we are supposed to be striving for.

Now obviously there are certain things we must never sacrifice for the sake of unity, but those things usually happen at the level of denominational differences, and what Paul was addressing was division within a single congregation that already agreed on the basics.

Jason Cooper
http://cooper-ation.blogspot.com/

Paul said...

Thanks for the comment Jason. As I have pondered what you wrote what occurred to me is the unity begins in local church families. So the task of the Restoration Movement really is to help individual congregations to commit to the standard of the New Testament church rather than seeking to restore universal church all at once.